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Dancing to Silent Movies

An old man slumps before the screen

where flickering light plays.

Empty film tapdances at reel’s end–

ta-lac, ta-lac, ta-lac, ta-lac, until

stiff fingers fumble with the switch,

labor to rewind the worn print.

When he is ready, film lashes

its licking tongue across the light

and a young man and woman appear:

he, groomed and tucked in a grey tuxedo,

she, smoothing a pearl-seeded bridal gown,

looks up, mouthing words forever silent.

The projectionist rises from his chair–

turns, positioning his ashen face,

superimposing a young man’s features on it.

Squinting into the glare, he smiles,

two smiles, old and young men smiling together,

watching as the celluloid lover wraps herself

intangibly in her husband’s arms.

He inclines his head toward her face

until her pursed lips rest on his cheek

and, whirling in her arms, he begins to cry–